Last Wednesday I was in Alpharetta working with a new Home Dog Training client and his Portuguese Water Dog named Nancy. The biggest thing that they needed help with was Nancy’s pulling on the leash. After fitting her with a front-loaded harness and providing my clients with some simple, directional tips, Nancy walked perfectly for them.
We continued the exercise with Nancy to include distractions such as cars and neighbors. We even incorporated multiple venues that involved inside the house, on the sidewalk, and in the park. Nancy was great and they were excited about the amazing results we were able to achieve.
As we were finishing up, I asked my standard “Can you think of anything else we haven’t covered?” question. They pondered for a moment and then remembered one more thing. It seems that they were having a really difficult time in getting Nancy to come back into the house when she would be in the back yard. I provided them with the following solution…
I first asked my clients for a little background information regarding “getting Nancy inside from the back yard”. I quickly realized that a very large problem and issue they were encountering was a very big, external stimulus imposed when Nancy was outside. Their back yard was completely fenced, and that is a great thing. The “problematic thing” was that their neighbor had some large crazy dogs who liked to “hang out” outside in the neighbor’s yard.
When the neighbor’s dogs were outside in their yard (right on the other side of the fence), Nancy and the other dogs would rush back and forth up their prospective fence lines barking and jumping as if they were in front of the stage of a Taylor Swift concert. Because the dogs were so heavily focused on each other, the standard COME commands that normally worked with Nancy had no impact at all. There was no way that she was going to pay attention to them, obey, and go into the house.
Out of sheer frustration, they even tried getting a garden hose and squirting Nancy when this was taking place. They thought that getting wet would get her attention. Well, the only thing that happened was that Nancy got wet as she ran back and forth at the fence line. On top of that, the yard was now a mud pit and when Nancy finally decided to come inside, she was a giant mud clod.
I reminded my clients of the behavioral learning process that we had covered and the need for focus to achieve a teaching moment and succeed in our educational goal. They were trying to achieve their “teaching moment” through the use of correction. Unfortunately, “correction” is sometimes ineffective when faced with heightened, external distractions (crazy dogs on the other side of the fence). That is why I reminded them of the redirection method.
Since there is a high probability that the neighbor’s dogs may be out and Nancy will go crazy when we let her outside, we need to prepare for that situation before the back, sliding glass doors are ever opened. I told them to calmly place a leash on Nancy while they were inside and before they even approached the sliding glass doors to let her out. Just to be safe, I told them to hook a leash to the end of the first so that the combined length of the leash was twelve feet. (They could have also used a fifteen-foot training lead if they so desired.) My reasoning behind this will become crystal clear in a moment.
Leash attached, we opened the sliding glass door to the back yard and Nancy went outside. Sure enough, the neighbor dogs had been hanging around in their yard. As soon as they saw Nancy come out, they started to bark and run at the fence. As soon as Nancy saw this, she became crazy and started to chase them up and down the fence. “The circus was in town!”
We let them run up and down the fence for a few minutes just to let them have some “doggie time”. Now it was time to bring Nancy back inside, so I showed my clients what they needed to do to be successful.
The most important thing that they had to remember and not do was to act crazy and chase after Nancy as she darted up and down the fence line. I told them to initially observe Nancy to determine her predictable path. They should also be aware that as Nancy was consistently traversing this path, there was a twelve-foot tail (the leash) directly following her.
The goal of catching Nancy wasn’t to try and grab her. Their goal was to catch the much larger target that was physically attached to her. In essence, I was telling them to “aim for the side of the barn”. Thus, I calmly walked up to the path that Nancy was taking as she was running up and down the fence line. As she passed by, I firmly put my foot on the trailing leash as she darted past.
Bazinga, I caught Nancy. I had to really stomp on the leash, but I stopped her. She looked back to me to try and understand what had happened. This broke her focus on the crazy dogs and directed her gaze to my calm and steadfast posture. At this point, I had momentarily taken over her attention and gained her complete focus.
My teaching moment had now arrived. I calmly picked up the leash, gave her a COME command to return to my side, and guided her back to the porch. Once we were on the porch and I saw that she was no longer paying any attention to the other dogs, I commanded her to SIT and then praised her with a “Good Puppy”.
We sat there on the porch for several minutes as the neighbor dogs slowly lost interest in their “play buddy on the other side of the fence”. At that point, I released the leash. Nancy calmly remained by my side.
The funny thing is (at least for me and my clients) that their neighbor had finally come outside to retrieve his dogs. They were still barking and running all around the yard. We watched as he was yelling at them and chasing after them. He had very little luck and the dogs finally came inside when “they felt like it”.
Being calm and forthright are the qualities dogs respect in their leader and are critical in having them respect and obey you. That is all I did and all that was needed to have Nancy obey my command.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.